Can one justify a Belief that harms the Environment? – 16 Mar 16

We are extremely busy now with the restaurant on top of our other responsibilities and I can tell you, we are learning a lot of new things! Obviously, we also make many new experiences and meet even more people than before. One group of restaurant visitors came and before sitting down asked us if we could do one thing for them: could we serve all of their food on disposable plates? Of course also with disposable spoons and glasses.

After asking once in the kitchen, we could confirm that this would be possible. Out of curiosity, Ramona asked why they had this special need and they told her it was ‘out of spiritual reasons’. Another one elaborated a bit, explaining that they had a saint who had put up certain rules – and one of them was not to eat from pots that any other person had ever eaten from.

Of course we did our best to satisfy them, cooking in normal pots, bringing it in our serving pots to the table but serving on plastic plates and handing out plastic spoons which we somehow happened to have. They were more than happy with the food and told us that they would definitely come back again.

It is our effort, in our restaurant, to satisfy all customers. While we obviously catered for what was possible for us, we inwardly cringed at the result of the meal: there was a whole lot of waste! Plastic waste on top, a material that is not decomposable, which will linger and have negative effects for our environment for decades, if not centuries.

Why? I really don’t have any problem with people believing whatever they want to believe. At the same time however, I have the right to disagree with it. I think it is wrong to pollute our earth for coming generations just because a man, who is just human like you and I, thought he should tell his followers to do so. It is each person’s own decision – but in the end, I believe humanity suffers from such beliefs.

At the same time, there are of course situations when we cannot avoid plastic either. When people order food for take-away for example, it would be difficult to pack it in an environmental-friendly way. Whenever plastic is not necessary, however, we prefer avoiding it!

Well, after this group’s visit, we talked about what we could do and we said we would be able to change it for next time: we will serve them on plates and bowls made out of leaves – a more eco-friendly version! They will have their religious or spiritual restrictions respected and we our environmental-friendly ones! A good deal for all parties involved!

Stinky and polluted Delhi gives me a Headache – 31 Jan 16

Yesterday, Purnendu and I spent the day in Delhi. It was a trip that we knew would take us the whole day, as we had a lot of things to do. And having returned safely after a long and exhausting day, I definitely have to say: Delhi is too full, too loud, too stinky and too polluted for me!

Purnendu and I had started in the morning – but not very early, as shops in Delhi usually don’t open before 11 am. Already when entering Delhi, we saw something which is rather unusual: there was garbage lying around everywhere! Nowhere did we see any of the otherwise quite hard-working cleaners and sweepers in town! Instead, on every corner we saw huge piles of plastic, dirt, papers and indefinable dirty objects. That’s when we remembered news we had read in the newspaper the days before: Delhi’s cleaners were on strike!

I don’t actually know the outcome but I assume it is in the favour of the cleaners, judging from the amount of chaos their strike caused in town! It was dirty everywhere and of course smelling badly, too!

On top of that, there is the well-known problem of pollution in the city of Delhi. With 1400 cars daily added to Delhi’s roads, you can imagine where this is coming from! If you want to go from one side of Delhi to the other one, it can take you hours.

At the beginning of this year, the Delhi government put a rule into place called ‘odd / even’, with every other day only cars with odd or even numbers being allowed to drive in town. And you know what? When we were driving around in Delhi in that time, it was indeed better! Less traffic, less time to get from one place to another and I even imagined that the air was a bit better. That was a two-week experiment however and yesterday, it was all back to normal or, with the strike of the cleaners, actually worse!

When shopping for pots for our restaurant’s kitchen, lights and lamps and more, we obviously had to cross nearly the whole town – partly by car, partly by rickshaw and partly by foot. Walking by the garbage piles, sometimes covering our noses, taking good care where to put our feet – it was exhausting, to say the least! And you can imagine how difficult it is to find a half-decent place to pee when you have to!

In the end of the day, I had a headache, something which I have really very rarely. I was nevertheless satisfied: we had been able to run all our errands and get more of those things together which we need for opening our restaurant next month!

The Dangers of Globalization – when everything good is exported! – 10 Jul 14

I yesterday told you that it was difficult – or rather impossible – for us to find good tomatoes on the Canary Islands as the best ones are usually exported to other countries. This is however not a problem only of these islands or of Spain! It is a global problem, a disadvantage and big danger that has come with globalization.

We know the exact same problem in India as well! India is the number one mango producer in the world. Nevertheless, there is always the complaint that we don’t get to see any of those great mangoes that are produced in our own country! They all are shipped away right from the tree to the markets of other countries.

The same holds true for rice! When travelling abroad, everyone knows of the quality of Indian rice and when you cook a good quality rice bought in the west, you get an unforgettable smell of this rice in your kitchen – but it is not so easy to find this rice in India!

India also produces lots of tea and coffee! Tea from Darjeeling and Assamis among the most famous of the world, but just yesterday someone commented on my diary entry, telling that the best tea is directly exported! And my commentator also wondered why everyone in India drinks instant coffee. Where is all the coffee we produce?

It is all about money. Western countries pay a higher price for the same products, so they get exported, even if that means that the own country is left with less. Less quality and quantity.The margin is higher – but it comes to a high cost and it ignores everything that you could call humanity or common sense!

Just look at the situation of water in Africa! Huge companies like Nestle have bought water sources that were formerly used by the local people, which provided water to whole villages! Now, this water is privatized, which means that the companies fill it in bottles and ship it abroad. Or sell it against good money in that same town that previously drank the water for free! Regardless of the fact that they don’t pay those people, the workers in their factory, enough to actually buy this water and still feed their families! They now have to walk far to a water pump, they have to carefully use it so that they have enough for the day.

Water. Rice. Fruit. Very common, everyday things! In an effect of globalization, everyone wants the best of everything at all times and right at his doorstep. Could we just take a minute of time and consider that this might be comfortable but at the same time has devastating effects on our earth? That people are starving and don’t have drinking water because human looks so much for convenience and comfort, for the highest margin and the biggest money!

You may think it is all about those huge companies, what can you do? You can!

Take a step back and consider where your food is coming from! Whenever you can, buy local vegetables, look out for labels of organic farming or production, prefer fair trade products, even if it costs a bit more. Take a check on yourself and your own consumption.

If we all do this, we can succeed in making this world a better place, individual after individual!

Can you be honest while feeling guilty? – 23 Nov 12

In the past week I was writing much about inner peace, finding oneself and everything related to reflections about one’s attitude, feelings and thoughts. When we received an email this week inviting us to take part in a survey – I think it was about consumer behavior and environment – Ramona decided to take part. When she told me about some of the questions, I was imagining what people would answer – and as it is related to this week’s blog entries, I decided to share my thoughts with you.

Usually I believe that your answers for any kind of survey are different if they are given anonymously or if you have to give your name for your answers. This is one of the reasons why creators of surveys often decide to go for the anonymous version – it gives much more honest results! The reason is easy: everybody knows what they ‘should’ answer.

If the question is ‘Do you switch off the lights when you leave the room?’, everyone knows that they should be doing that. If people have given their name in the survey, they most probably decide to tick ‘Always’. In an anonymous survey however, they might decide being more honest and tick ‘Mostly’ and some maybe even ‘Rarely’.

Are you conscious about not throwing food away? Do you separate your garbage for recycling? Do you save water when possible? Do you try to use alternative energies? Do you buy locally and avoid imported goods or vegetables that don’t grow in the season?

You want to shout out ‘YES!’ and I know many of you can honestly say ‘Yes, always’ to most of these points. There are many people however who would only do that if their name was written there. If they were really honest, they would have to answer differently though.

Why is that? Are you ashamed that you are not as environmental-friendly as you should be? It is not only about the environment, it can be any survey about any topic! You know what is right – so why don’t you act like it? You know all of this but when you read the question you feel guilty that you cannot honestly choose the right answer.

Whenever you are in such a situation, make a change. This is the right point to reflect about your behavior and realize that you are not doing what you know is right. There is no question that you want to do the right thing, too, but maybe until today you were too lazy to do it. Life as it is was just too comfortable for a change, you did not bring up the energy to change or it caused you too much stress.

Don’t let any of this prevent you from making a change now! Don’t let the issue fade away again but actually do something so that the next time this question comes up, you don’t need to feel guilty, ashamed or like hiding behind the anonymity of the crowd.

Do what you feel is right. That will make you happy.

America – Highest Water Consumption per Person per Day – 30 Aug 11

Yesterday I wrote about individualism and mentioned that I noticed a certain attitude in the USA which made me think that many people there do not think a lot about their environment and the people around them. When talking to our friend Iris once, who is working in an office for the environment in the department for water, she told us that America also is the country with the highest amount of average water consumption per person.

When she said this, I remembered how we once noticed in an apartment that the tab of the bathtub was running. It was not leaking and only dripping every once in a while. No, it was continuously running in a steady flow. It was just open intentionally. The owner explained us it was running always so that the cat could drink. When we asked about the bill for water, we were told that it was a flat rate, so it didn’t matter how much water was used in that apartment, the cost would not increase.

There are hundreds of such examples from broken taps that are running to people who wash their cars every day in their courtyard. Again, this is not only reduced to America, people are careless about their water consumption in many countries in which it is taken for granted that there is always enough water in the water pipes.

I did however look at statistics online and found that America is the number one of water consumers with an average of 575 liters or 152 US gallons per person per day. I obviously compared it to the figures for Germany, which uses 193 liters or 51 gallons, and India which has an average use of 135 liters or about 36 gallons per person per day. There are obviously many countries that use less water, including all those African countries where water is simply so rare that most people do not have access to a lot of liters per day.

There are so many problems regarding water, the access and availability for rural population and also the question whether it is clean enough to be drinking water. Seeing all this and thinking of those who are thirsty and die of dehydration, we have to rethink our water spending habits. Water is precious. It is life. Don’t waste it! Think broader and wider, see that the water that you carelessly let flow down the drain without even thinking means life to someone else.

Environmental Awareness and a Green Political Party needed in India – 6 May 11

Last week we were in Tornesch with Jens and Regina. At the lunch table one day, Jens asked me ‘Do you also have a green party in India as we have in Germany? A party that is concerned about the environment and has a certain influence in the government which then brings more protection for the environment?’ In Germany there is a party which is commonly called ‘Die Grünen’ – the green ones – and they now get more influence, especially after the accident in the nuclear power plant in Japan. They make people aware of dangers for the environment and now aim for a ‘nuclear phase-out’, the shutting down of all nuclear power plants in Germany.

I had to think for some time but had to answer that in my knowledge there is no bigger political party in India that concentrates on the environment in their agenda.

The main parties that I can think of are the present ruling party, the Congress, who seem to have the interest of filling their pockets, if you look at the number of leaders who are accused of corruption. Another big party is the BJP, currently the opposition party and also called the ‘Orange party’ as they focus on religious issues, showing themselves as rather conservative Hindus.

I can think of some other parties, too, but they have either communist focus points or are based on a certain cast, a certain religious issue or even on their area. In the Indian state Maharashtra for example there is a party which is called MNS and who want to prevent people from other states from moving to their state. All those parties have their agenda and they instigate against people from other faiths, casts and even locations. With all due respect to what all these politicians achieve for our country, in the end it always looks as though everybody is mainly interested in their own, egoistic and personal benefit.

I love the idea of a party that puts its main focus not on the interest of one small group of people but on the welfare of the whole world and all its inhabitants. Obviously such aims for a greener country with more trees, less garbage on the streets, renewable energy and cleaner rivers and lakes will not only benefit that specific country but the whole world. And we all know that India still has a long way to go in environmental issues.

The first emotion for many people who come to India is pure shock. It is dirty, it is stinky, everywhere is garbage and hardly any nature around. You need to go to places that are especially taken care of like resorts and wildlife sanctuaries to get to see some real nature. There is concrete everywhere and you see each year how more and more trees disappear and more and more buildings are constructed. In the name of development, the government builds a concrete forest of skyscrapers and multi-story buildings where in my childhood there was jungle.

About two thirds of our Ashram is a big garden. We have very often got advice to use this land properly and make a few buildings there. We could even earn money with this! When we reply that it is good for everyone to have nature and trees, people may understand that it is beautiful to see but they don’t understand that they actually breathe better air because of those trees.

What we need is more awareness about these issues. People who are not even literate don’t know how they should deal with nature in any other way. Children growing up today don’t learn that they have to take care of nature. They learn that any garbage can be either thrown into the gutter or swept together to a little pile and then burnt. There is mostly not any recycling system and nowhere else to put your garbage. People throw away everything in nature and onto the roads.

What do you expect however from illiterate poor people, who did not even know what plastic was until a few years ago, if you see big companies pouring all their chemical waste into the rivers, polluting the water for every town further down the stream? They don’t care either! We need to bring awareness and it has to starts at the top, in the government, in cities, in big companies and corporations and finally it will reach the common man through education in schools and public information.

I would be very happy about such a party in India and some support for the protection of the environment there. Maybe I could even give my vote to them but until now I only see classifications of religion, caste and area. When I told my friends that we have big religious parties, they informed me that in Germany parties with religious program are very small. It is not that important. Maybe there are environmental parties in India, too, and they are just so small that I don’t know them. I would wish that in India, too, religious parties lose some of their importance to those which care more about the environment.

Formula One Car Race – Fun in Dying, Injuring and Polluting Environment – 11 Feb 11

This week I by chance saw some news on the internet the subject of which usually is not at all a topic that I think about a lot. Today however, I talked with Ramona about it and we agreed that it may be interesting to know the opinions of our diary readers, too.
A driver of the Formula One, Robert Kubica, some days ago had a horrible accident. He was actually not driving a formula 1 car but was participating in a rally.

Nevertheless, he was driving a very fast car in a race and on a wet piece of road lost the control over the skidding car, which crashed into the safety fence that then pierced the car. In the end the car crashed against the wall of a church.

Miraculously the co-pilot had no injuries but the pilot’s complete right side of the body has been injured badly. He was bleeding internally, his leg and arm were broken in several places and his right hand was like smashed. He was immediately brought to a hospital where doctors and surgeons managed to stop the internal bleeding and made every effort to place the bones of his leg, arm and hand again into the right places. For some time they thought they might have to amputate his right hand but then managed to place the bones and muscles together again. They are still not sure whether he will be able to use his hand again with its full functionality. He will however most probably never again drive in a formula 1 car.

Well, why am I writing this? Each time when I hear about motorsports I wonder very much why it is called sports and why such a thing even exists.

First of all, what is the sport in this? Are they physically very active in this? Of course, people say the drivers need to stay fit and are training every day before these races but actually during the race, what is the sport? Is it only the competition? I don’t understand why people have fun in watching that. Are they actually waiting for an accident to happen, is it just the craving for sensations that makes them watch?
It is dangerous to drive with speed of 300 kilometers per hour or more, even if you are trained and even if you have driven on that racetrack many times before. There can always be some kind of mistake in your car, something on the road, an unpredictable move of another car and your car starts sliding and you lose control. People have broken all bones of their body, have carried away permanent injuries and disabilities and people have even died.

You may now say that the drivers are well aware of these risks and everybody working near the racetrack knows that he can get injured or even die if an accident happens. Another point, a very important one, however is that they are not only harming themselves, they are harming every single one of us through the pollution they create. I really don’t understand, with all the measurements that are taken against global warming all over the world, why have motorsports not been banned yet? With each race they use that fuel which is getting rarer in this world and thus more expensive everywhere. We hear everywhere that oil is getting less and less but here they just blow it out for fun and in this way create pollution, simply for driving in circles for several hours. This sport is harming nature, harming our environment and contributing in our deaths in the long run! They pollute the air and millions of people sit in front of their TVs watching them and cheering for them.

If humankind really wants to change something, this kind of ‘sports’ have to stop! You have to stop destroying our planet just for that short-sighted kind of fun. It costs lives, not only those of the drivers.

Alcohol more Dangerous than Cocaine and other Drugs but still Legal! – 10 Nov 10

I read about a research which compared the dangers of drugs with each other. Scientists examined the effects of various legal and illegal drugs. They counted the damage that is done to the one who uses the drug and they also counted harm that is done to his or her surroundings. The damage to oneself includes diseases that one can get, addiction, loss of concentration, economic loss, social difficulties and more. The damage for others includes their health, financial consequences through the use of the drug and environmental problems that result.

The interesting thing is that the top result, the drug which is the most harmful for any person is a legal drug: alcohol. Alcohol ranked as the number one, heroin and crack cocaine made it to rank two and three. Tobacco was also among the higher numbers, at about the same danger level as cocaine. Drinking alcohol is thus one of the most dangerous things that you can do. There is a reason why the use of alcohol is the third most frequent cause of premature death or disability! You harm your body, you harm your mind, you harm the people around you, you become violent or depressive and you bring yourself and others into danger.

Still, however, alcohol is a legal drug! It is advertised, it is sold openly in many countries, it is allowed even for children in many places of the world and in so many societies it is openly accepted and you are even encouraged to drink! Why is it that governments do not ban these drugs as they did with cocaine, heroin, cannabis and so many other drugs? Do not understand me wrong, I don’t want to legalize marijuana, ecstasy or any other of the illegal drugs! I would like to make alcohol illegal or at least see that governments stop promoting it!

Why is that not happening? You don’t believe that governments have not heard about these studies and researches, right? They know better than most of the population that alcohol and tobacco are drugs that are very harmful but still they don’t ban them or call them illegal. When you cannot think of any logical reason anymore, there is always one more answer: money interests. Governments make so much money through taxes on alcohol and tobacco that they would lose a big source of income if they suddenly banned them or stopped promoting them. Unfortunately we do not live in a perfect world, otherwise governments would rather save the health of people in their country instead of selling them things that make them sick. But in this world we need to be ourselves responsible about our actions and what we do to our body.

Don’t drink, don’t smoke and don’t use any other drug, you will feel that this is the best for your body, mind and soul!

Details: http://www.impactlab.net/2010/11/01/alcohol-more-dangerous-than-crack-or-heroin-say-drug-experts/

Russian Finance Minister Encouraging to Drink and Smoke – 4 Sep 10

Yesterday I read something that I could not believe at first but which was confirmed by several serious sources on the internet, too. The Russian finance minister Alexei Kudrin advises people to smoke and drink more. The reason for this statement is outrageous: the more cigarettes and alcohol are sold, the more social help the government could be able to give because of the money they get through taxes! Just to make it clear again: the finance minister asks people to smoke and drink so that the government can help others! Isn’t that a crazy statement? In a country where already 65% of all men are addicted alcoholics!

I always used to think, if everybody knows that smoking creates cancer and alcohol destroys your liver, why does the government not simply ban it? Why are there so many factories busy with the production of cigarettes and different alcoholic beverages? On each packet of cigarettes it is written that smoking causes cancer, pollutes the environment and is reason for an early death but it is still sold! I thought governments should just ban it, simply not allow cigarettes to be sold. I knew that it was just a fantasy but it was a good thought. However it is not going to happen because the government gets money through taxes!

Well, this is a thought that you have somewhere in the back of the mind. Still you tend to believe that politicians are aware of the bad effects of smoking and drinking, that they would like to reduce it and just don’t see possibilities to fully stop it. This statement however so bad and it even creates a feeling of disgust! Why would a leading politician, a minister talk like this? This actually makes me dislike politics even more. Politicians are leaders and should be a good example but they are encouraging people to drink and smoke! They encourage them to get sick and ruin their health! If you are in a leading position, you should use your position to help, not to destroy!

Alcohol and Tobacco makes you ill! Who is going to help those who are smoking and drinking when they are in hospitals? You want to get tax revenue but you don’t think how bad their situation will be? They are going to be the ones who need your help then! They will have physical problems, they will have psychological problems, there will be more crime because of drunken people and more deaths in the consequence! Or do you think once you make them addicted, you can get rid of your responsibility? Are they not humans to take care of?

You might not be there anymore to see these consequences of your action and anyway you are the finance minister, not the health minister, but politicians should feel ashamed to talk like this!

Source: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/russia/7975521/People-should-smoke-and-drink-more-says-Russian-finance-minister.html

While I am thinking of health problems that Russia will have if they follow their minister’s advice, my main focus is of course on the situation here in Vrindavan. Today our team will go with a doctor and medicine to the colonies to provide medical help to the flood victims. The water level sunk a bit but yesterday it was raining, starting at about five and ending only today sometime in the early morning. So we will see, what the situation is today and will report to you tomorrow.

 

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No Public Transport Systems in Texas? – 29 May 10

We are here in League City with our friends Lola and Kevin, who invited us, as well as our friends Joanne and Jeff, with whom we are staying. Today is Joanne’s and Jeff’s son Ethan’s birthday and we thought about buying a present. Joanne and Jeff were busy preparing and so we thought about getting it ourselves but had to realize that we did not know any way how to get to the shop.

So we asked Lola and Kevin and Kevin had time to take us in the car to the shop. On the way we asked him if there was no public transportation here, no bus which you could take? And he said no, there wasn’t. And then here everything is very wide apart from each other, you cannot really just walk to the store, it is too far. So you have to have a car to live here!

When we said this Kevin mentioned that it was probably because of the oil production and business here that the government would rather have people buy fuel and gas for their cars, each person their own, than have 50 people hop onto a bus, using maybe more than a car but surely not as much as 50 cars.

Hearing this we were very surprised. In many places we know there is a very good system of public transport and the government encourages people to use it because it is so much better for the environment, there are no parking problems, everybody gets a bit more exercise and the gas is not all used now but can be used longer for the future. What about pollution and environmental protection? Why would you prefer to stand in long traffic jams, blowing all the smog into the air?

It is a pity but as long as people or governments anywhere in the world and especially in a big and developed country like America put the short-sighted interests of economy higher than the long-term risks for the environment, nature cannot be in balance. We need to take good care of this planet and not polluting it is part of this!